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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Food Bites: easy and tasty recipe ideas for the (below average) cook

This pantry staple can be used to make a variety of simple, flavoursome meals.

There's nothing better than getting your hands on a new cookbook. It really is a buzz.

Flicking through the crisp, clean pages, scanning the ingredients list, eyes lingering on the mouth-watering photographs ... because over time, that book is more a reminder of past meals (or meal attempts). Splattered with sauce, smeared with condiments and dog-eared, though, the book has its charm.

I will lovingly gaze at all kinds of high-end cookbooks but tend to gravitate towards those catering for the (very) average, time poor, budget-conscious home cook with a family. And that's why The Tinned Tomatoes Cookbook: 100 everyday recipes using the most versatile ingredient in your kitchen, by Samuel Goldsmith, caught my eye.

This book shares easy weeknight dishes based on the humble tin of tomatoes which, in my household, is a pantry staple. Tinned tomatoes are cheap and versatile and, combined with other ingredients likely to be lurking in your pantry (or easily picked up on the way home of an evening), can be used to make some tasty dishes.

Among the many recipes Goldsmith shares in his cookbook are the prawn and coconut curry; chicken and chorizo pie; halloumi and Mediterranean vegetable tray bake; tuna pasta bake; three types of chilli and a variety of pasta sauces.

The Tinned Tomatoes Cookbook, by Samuel Goldsmith, is out now through Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99.

Flavour comes first in Molly Baz's kitchen.

And here is another cookbook that could have been written just for me.

More Is More: Get Loose in the Kitchen, by Molly Baz, Murdoch Books, RRP $55.

The book's summary says it all: "It's time to crank up the heat and lose the measuring spoons because the secret to cooking is hiding in one simple motto: more is more."

Baz is a New York Times bestselling author who, in More Is More, is sharing a philosophy that encourages more risk-taking, better intuition, fewer exact measurements, and a "don't stop 'til it tastes delicious" mentality.


Presentation and following a recipe to the letter has its place, but in my kitchen, food is all about flavour. And that means rules can be (and frequently are) broken.

Why not start your morning with Baz's crispy rice egg-in-a-hole? There's a simple chicken salad with coconut crunch for lunch, "The Only Meatloaf that Matters" for dinner, and the "Ooey Gooey Carrot Cake" for dessert. You might also consider the mashed potato arancini, stuffed focaccia with spicy greens and cheese, or the raw and roasted cauliflower salad with vegan ranch.

QR codes to step-by-step audio tutorials, plus recipe videos, are a nice touch for those of us who need a little extra assistance in the kitchen.

Cooking on Sundays can be fun - honestly.

Sundays: A Cookbook, by Sophie Godwin, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99.

Sunday is, Godwin says, her favourite day of the week.

I've always found Sundays to be a bit of an enigma. It's a day off work or study for most and should be celebrated, but is all too often a day of regret and lost opportunity rudely overtaken by the prospect of Monday.

But eating on a Sunday needn't be a chore, as this collection of straight-forward, laidback, flavoursome recipes suggests. Godwin pays particular attention to the flexibility offered by Sunday dining: hangover-friendly brunches, long lunches with friends, and quiet dinners.

Recipes that caught my eye include the breakfast tacos; harissa fennel rigatoni; Sicilian-vibes fish stew; pea, feta and hazelnut risotto; miso scrambled eggs; cheesy egg and bacon bap; sriracha corn fritters; and the cumin lamb pappardelle.

Godwin also makes sure ingredients in her recipes are interchangeable without affecting the taste, which is helpful. Who wants to run down to the shops on a Sunday to find a specific herb or condiment? She also develops her recipes with the home cook in mind, and so limits the necessity of having what she describes as "fancy equipment" at your fingertips.

Harvest party returns

Hamilton Harvest Party - CRUSHED 2.0 - is returning to Vera Wine's purpose-built Tudor Street wine education space, Vera Wine Forum, on Saturday, April 20. From 11am to 4pm you'll be able to sample 60 different wines from 20 of Vera's favourite local producers, plus have access to the Vera Rare Bar where old and rare wines will be available by the glass. Harrison's Food and Wine, Good Folk Brewing and DJ Peregrine from Rudderless Records complete the line-up. Tickets are $50 and selling fast.

Aperitif happy hour

Head to Thermidor Brasserie at Honeysuckle on Thursdays and Fridays, 5pm to 6pm, for the newly launched Shell & Spritz Aperitif Hour. You can sip on $12 spritz cocktails (or $6 tap beer) while savouring natural oysters ($3 each) and surf 'n' turf sliders ($10).

Wine symphony at Vamp

Lisa McGuigan. Picture supplied

Winemaker Lisa McGuigan is hosting a special event at Vamp Wine Rooms on Friday, March 15, in collaboration with concert pianist Van-Anh Nguyen. McGuigan will showcase five wines, each matched with a piece of music performed and chosen by Van-Anh that is "reflective of the body, tannins and flavours of each wine. Think Debussy with your vermentino. Chopin with your pinot noir". Chef Jonathan Heath from Well Seasoned Catering will be cooking up a five-course storm on the night. Tickets are $240 per person through Sticky Tickets.

New Japanese restaurant

Umi Japanese Restaurant has opened on The Boulevarde at Toronto. I have yet to visit (it's on my to-do list) but feedback on social media has been overwhelmingly positive. More to come on this one.

Lake Mac Awards

MasterChef Australia alumni and TikTok favourite Stephanie de Sousa, from Warners Bay, is in the running for the Lake Mac Ambassador award for "outstanding contribution to the Lake Mac community". She's up against Bradley Dunn, Emily van Egmond, Matt Hall, Ann-Maria Martin, Anna Noon and Bailey Seamer. The winner will be announced at the 2024 Lake Mac Awards gala event at Belmont 16s on March 22.

Sweet move by BellAmica

Dessert makers BellAmica have ceased trading at the farmers market (for the time being) to focus on their new home at 303 Hunter Street in Newcastle (the former Embassy Cafe). They're open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm, and by appointment.

Roundhouse lunch

Tickets are still available to Hunter Culinary Association's Autumn Seasonal Lunch at Crystalbrook Kingsley's Roundhouse restaurant on Tuesday, March 12. Raffle tickets sold on the day will raise money for local charity Got Your Back Sista.

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